Google rolled out personalized search for everyone way back in 2009. Before that, you saw the same search results for a query as anyone else who searched for the same keyword. With personalized search in play for almost ten years, you’d think people would notice and that companies would incorporate personalization into their SEO strategies. Right? Not so much. Incredibly, Digital Examiner found that 43.5% of people surveyed didn’t realize their search results were personalized.
Does this mean users are so happy with their Google experience they never thought about the fact that the results are personalized? Or are site owners simply not delivering the right personalized experiences to make a real difference? Good questions.
What criteria play into search results’ personalization?
If you are one of those who didn’t realize Google personalizes your SERP results (so does Bing, by the way), here are some criteria that determine your personalized results on the search engine of your choice:
- Your location
- Device used
- Your search and browsing history
- Your interactions on SERP pages (clicks)
Some experts have also speculated on how online reviews you write may impact your personalized search results. Others have written about how your social media usage may also play into what you see on your SERP. Unfortunately, the major search engine providers keep their algorithms a closely guarded secret, so experts are left to their own devices when it comes to deciphering between the two aforementioned points and any other user-behavior inspired rationale.
Expert advice on the power of personalization in SEO
As marketing manager at Chicago’s Marcel Digital, Patrick Delehanty spends his days immersed in strategic content creation and targeted link acquisition for agency clients. He is also one of the most-endorsed members of the Moz Community and received the coveted Moz Oracle status in 2015.
He took a few minutes to share his insights with ClearVoice on the topic of personalization and SEO strategy:
SEO in 2018 is going to come down to a personalized experience. If you take a look at Google’s initiatives to provide a more personalized search experience (such as location, search history, social networks, web history, and more), you’ll see that users
are becoming more and more acclimated to that experience. For marketers, this means that we have to consider our audiences, their intentions for being on our website, and content that is relevant to their searches.
But how can companies rise to meet the challenge of a more personalized user experience? According to Delehanty, by doing this:
We need to focus more on targeting more long-tail keywords, keeping our websites mobile optimized, and also focus on local SEO efforts to appear for searches happening in our service areas.
Keep in mind, in any marketing campaign you’re trying to increase conversions, but also create brand evangelists. So even after search, it’s important that you tailor your website’s user experience to fit the persona of previous searchers or clients. This means show them products they previously viewed and didn’t purchase, or show them content that reinforces their decision in visiting your website or purchasing from you. Doing this will create a sense of comfort and confidence in the user that will ensure they continue to engage with your brand even beyond search. Focus on personalizing your brand experience… and your organic visibility will be rewarded.
Delehanty reveals that the path to a greater ROI resides in the path where the marketer creates content that matches the target audience’s intent:
Companies that follow this mindset are 26% more profitable and have 12% greater market capitalization. Why? Because these companies understand their user’s intentions and their path to purchase, which informs their ongoing content strategy and allows them to break through the noise. They create high-quality content that aligns their business goals along with client goals. This not only helps build organic visibility but it also builds trust in brands, because it’s content that target audiences are actually looking for.
What to watch out for with personalization
Remember that personalization means making the searcher’s experience, well… personal. Simply adding some marketing automation magic to your website that welcomes a person by name isn’t enough. So, what does all this mean for site owners, SEO professionals, and content creators? After all, you can’t control what a searcher does. True, but there are elements you can control to affect user behavior:
- Develop your brand and improve customer loyalty. When your customers and potential customers search for your brand, personalized search algorithms take into account when a person clicks your result even if your result wasn’t number one. If a person sought out your brand’s result in the results list, chances are your brand will be on page one — perhaps number one — in the user’s next similar
- Create content for local-intent searches. Ensure you indicate your location on your site if you rely on foot traffic and local customers, and don’t forget to implement structured data to help potentially enhance your search engine page
- Deliver personalized experiences on your site that engage your Increase your site’s user dwell time, reduce bounce rate, and improve conversions.
Are you crafting your content to keep up with search behaviors?
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